Artist News Legal

21 Savage confirms he is British, says he’s lived in the US since he was seven

By | Published on Wednesday 6 February 2019

21 Savage

US-based rapper 21 Savage has confirmed that he was indeed born in the UK, following his arrest and the beginning of deportation procedures against him at the weekend.

The news that an artist who is so closely associated with the city of Atlanta is not actually American by birth came as a shock to many. However, through his lawyers, he said that he had lived in the US since he was seven years old. They add that he lost his legal status in America through no fault of his own and has been attempting to correct this since 2017.

A spokesperson for Immigration & Customs Enforcement said that the rapper – real name Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph – is an “unlawfully present United Kingdom national”. They added that he had entered the US legally in 2005, aged twelve, but that his visa then expired the following year.

In a new statement, 21 Savage’s lawyers say that he actually moved to the US when he was seven, but returned to the UK briefly in 2005, before going back to America the following month. It was that trip which caused his legal status to change. His mother and four siblings, the statement notes, are all US citizens or have legal permanent resident status. The rapper also has three children, all of whom are US citizens.

These strong ties to America, say the lawyers, should be enough to allow him to avoid deportation. They also note that he applied for a ‘U visa’ in 2017. This is a type of visa for victims of crimes who have experienced mental or physical abuse while in the US and are willing to assist law enforcers in their enquiries. It would not give him permanent residence, but could be converted to this status after three years.

Questioning why he was arrested suddenly at the weekend, 21 Savage’s statement notes that the Department Of Homeland Security “has known his address since the filing of a U visa application in 2017”, adding that “he has never hidden from DHS or any of its agencies”.

The statement then concludes: “We are unaware of why ICE apparently targeted Mr Abraham-Joseph, but we will do everything possible to legally seek his release and pursue his available relief in immigration court”.

Earlier this week, an ICE spokesperson claimed that 21 Savage’s “whole public persona is false”. However, while most people are only learning now where he was born, the rapper has never denied being British or claimed to be a US citizen. Him rapping and speaking publicly about his life in Atlanta – and his supporting charitable projects in the city – are no less valid just because he spent the first seven years of his life somewhere else.

After all, what rapper – or celebrity or perhaps even human – has a public persona that 100% reflects every aspect of their private life? None.